About the Colony

Trying not to fear fearful news

Lon Allan
Lon Allan

"The only thing we have to fear ... is fear itself."

“This is a serious disease, but we can’t give in to hysteria or fear.”

President Franklin Roosevelt was trying to stem a tide of panic moving across the nation in the 1930s following the start of the Great Depression (in 1929). President Barack Obama was trying to head off national hysteria regarding the threat from Ebola, pointing out that out of a population of 300 million people, only three cases have been discovered so far.

I think there will probably be more.

But what Obama and FDR were trying to do was calm jittery nerves about current looming situations (the Depression, and a worldwide spread of a deadly disease).

Both CBS and NBC on separate occasions last week reported on the danger of panic, yet I believe both networks, and in general all the electronic news agencies, feed off negative slants to the news.

The way the news anchors present the news, their vocal intonations sounding like the voices of doom, scare us at first and then, several minutes later, present information that says things aren’t as bad as it seems.

The TV news is two-faced. It has such a power to calm, but instead puts lead stories in place to draw us in, to listen to see whether it is really as bad as it sounds. Most of the time it isn’t.

I don’t remember the name of the book or its author, but I read a mystery a few years ago in which the plot line revolved around the news media and big business working together to keep the general public perpetually scared so that we’d buy safety products, insurance, home earthquake survival kits and more.

We see it nightly in drug commercials for diseases most of us can’t pronounce and are constantly urged to “ask our doctor” for costly drugs to prevent them.

Just knowing how hard it is to catch Ebola calms my nerves. It isn’t transmitted through the air, like flu.

A national level of caution, on the other hand, is a good thing, and I appreciate the efforts now underway in hospitals and medical clinics everywhere to be more aware of this threat.

But television at all levels, from local to national, in its perpetual quest to shock us (like all the extremely graphic, bloody and sexual scenes filling the airwaves these days), does, in my book, pose a potentially more dangerous impact on our nation than Ebola itself.